House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was labour.

Topics

7:25 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague 100%. We absolutely have to get the best aircraft for the best price for the Canadian men and women who will be put in harm's way for the next 30, 40 or 50 years. That is exactly what we are doing.

I want to thank him again for his question because it gives me a chance to clarify some of the misconceptions that have been put out there. The government is indeed committed to finding the best value for Canadian taxpayers' dollars in the case of our decision to purchase 65 F-35 Lightning II strike fighters. That is exactly what we are doing. We are following the most cost-effective option and it does follow Treasury Board guidelines. To say that it does not is just simply false.

Canada joined the multinational joint strike fighter partnership back in 1997 under the Liberals and conducted a competitive process to select what would become the JSF, the only fifth generation fighter aircraft available to Canada and the rest of the western world with the exception of the United States.

The whole point of the joint strike fighter program is to develop a cutting edge adaptable, sustainable, multi-role aircraft for the 21st century that permits full interoperability with our allies and friends, and benefits from economies of scale inherent in a project that foresees the production of nearly 5,000 aircraft over a 40-year span.

Indeed, experts from within the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces did conduct extensive evaluations of the leading fighter aircraft, analyzed data provided by industry, and through government-to-government channels, and undertook lengthy consultations with manufacturers.

Of course, someone will come before the defence committee to say that they can do that. However, they are not the ones making the decisions. The decisions and the advice needs to be taken from the experts who have extensive experience and expertise in this because they have no agenda other than to get the Canadian Forces the best aircraft possible at the best price.

The conclusion was that only the F-35 meets all the mandatory criteria in the statement of operational requirements and these experts then recommended to the government that it acquire the F-35 joint strike fighter. It is the government's confidence in the expertise and experience of these military and civilian officials and their recommendations that has led to its choice of a procurement process.

To hold a second competitive process to select Canada's next generation fighter, as critics have called for, would waste time and money, and needlessly delay the replacement of our aging fleet of CF-18s, which will reach the end of their service life by 2020.

However, more fundamentally, such a competition would be a farce as we cannot hold a competition when there is only one viable competitor. To persist in holding such a lopsided competition would be to select the very aircraft that we already know is the only one that meets the air force's requirements. We would lose our place in the production schedule and to lose out on the lucrative economic opportunities for Canadian industry contained within the industrial participation plans signed among the JSF partner nations and Lockheed Martin.

Purchasing the F-35 through a competitive bidding process with an attached industrial regional benefits package, as the opposition has been demanding, would mean purchasing the aircraft outside the joint strike fighter memorandum of understanding that Canada signed onto in 2006. We get special privileges inside that MOU, not the least of which allows us to purchase the F-35 without having to pay foreign military sales fees or research and development recoupment costs that are built into the price for non-partner nations, such as Israel. These cost waivers amount to savings of $850 million to $900 million off the purchase price of our 65 aircraft.

Not only that, but those industrial participation plans that permit Canadian companies to bid on contracts for the full F-35 global supply chain would be immediately suspended with a decision to hold a competition as these plans are conditional on Canada purchasing the F-35 through the MOU.

Canada's world-class aerospace companies have already won $350 million in contracts. That is even before full production has begun. Based on this success, estimates suggest that Canadian companies could win up to $12 billion in contracts for production, sustainment, and follow-on development of the F-35 over the 40-year duration of the project.

The Canadian industry rightly sees the long-term benefits of this novel procurement process. By participating in such huge international projects, the government can help to stimulate and strengthen Canadian aerospace and defence companies to bid on and win major contracts worldwide.

The choice facing this government in this process is a no-brainer: proceed with the purchase under the best process--

7:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must interrupt the hon. member.

The hon. member for Richmond Hill.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, the member talks about misconceptions; I talk about ill-conceived.

Here we have a situation where we do not have transparency or accountability for the Canadian taxpayer. We do not even know how much per aircraft this will cost because again the meter is running. It is costing more and more every day. This has certainly been seen in the United States. I would think that it is prudent for us to take a close look at this again.

The member indicates that people, of course, will come to the committee and say that they can sell us whatever it is and not to worry. The reality is that I do not think that some of the major firms that came before us would have said that they can do what it is we are looking for if, in fact, they could not deliver. They made it very clear that they can.

Obviously, Lockheed Martin has sold the government a nice bill of goods. It said there is no problem at all, but by the way do not worry about the cost as it goes up. As I have said, from $50 million per unit now we are up to about $92 million, and again it continues.

In a deficit situation, we need openness, transparency, and the government has not shown that in this case.

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB